From left, Fraser Councilman Michael Lesich, Clinton Township Supervisor Bob Cannon, Utica Mayor Thom Dionne, Shelby Township Supervisor Richard Stathakis and Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor discuss issues Feb. 16 at the Community Leaders Breakfast at Mirage Elegant Banquets & Catering in Clinton Township.

From left, Fraser Councilman Michael Lesich, Clinton Township Supervisor Bob Cannon, Utica Mayor Thom Dionne, Shelby Township Supervisor Richard Stathakis and Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor discuss issues Feb. 16 at the Community Leaders Breakfast at Mirage Elegant Banquets & Catering in Clinton Township.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Macomb County officials get honest about infrastructure

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published February 19, 2018

 Lauren Kliffel, an accountant at First State Bank, watches from the audience.

Lauren Kliffel, an accountant at First State Bank, watches from the audience.

Photo by Deb Jacques

MACOMB COUNTY — There seems to be a consensus that most everyone in Macomb County can agree with: The roads are bad, and there’s no reprieve anytime soon.

County officials and local business leaders gathered at the Sterling Heights Chamber of Commerce’s Community Leaders Breakfast Feb. 16 at Mirage Elegant Banquets & Catering in Clinton Township. 

The five main speakers were Clinton Township Supervisor Bob Cannon, Shelby Township Supervisor Richard Stathakis, Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor, Utica Mayor Thom Dionne and Fraser City Councilman Michael Lesich. The event was moderated by Crain’s Detroit Business reporter Chad Livengood.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel opened the discussion, detailing how the defense industry, business, agriculture, public safety and educational opportunities have led to county population growth in the form of 12 new residents per day, on average, since 2010.

“We’ve got an incredible story to tell,” Hackel said.

 

The pothole in the room
The panel’s first question revolved around the infamous 15 Mile Road sinkhole that bordered Fraser and Clinton Township for nearly a year, starting on Christmas Eve 2016. That repair was completed in November, but it has opened the eyes of officials and residents as to how big of a problem roads — and, in a larger scope, infrastructure — are for the county’s future.

Taylor called Mound Road, a large portion of which runs through his city, arguably one of the worst roads in the entire nation. The city is attempting to receive funding for fixes, but that’s not guaranteed.

“It’s embarrassing, and it’s not acceptable,” Taylor said.

State government was a target throughout the morning, with Stathakis referring to “Santa Claus budgets” in Lansing that won’t instantly help municipalities and their residents. 

He said his township is looking at roads singularly, grading them from best to worst and working from that vantage point. Paving and other work has taken place on the M-59 corridor since 2017, but he said there needs to be a more comprehensive approach.

“Potholes, obviously, are not meeting the expectations of our residents,” Stathakis said.

Dionne questioned why places as disparate as Europe and Ohio don’t have giant potholes, but Michigan is full of them. He wondered whether that is due to differing vehicle weight restrictions and bad road-patching materials, or whether it is a byproduct of resorting to the lowest construction bidders.

Cannon, who said that Clinton and Shelby townships must resort to county funds due to their township designations, said he has no faith in Lansing legislators or the federal government to provide aid for improvements.

He anticipates that Clinton Township will go to its residents with a 1.9-mill tax to improve roads, and it will be at their own discretion.

“The money promised from Lansing just isn’t here, and once it is, it won’t be enough,” Cannon said.

Lesich said the sinkhole debilitated the city of Fraser, leading to Garfield Road improvements being pushed back due to rising costs the city just couldn’t meet. He said he is happy that the county relined approximately 3,700 feet of sewer piping while simultaneously repairing the sinkhole.

State Rep. Bill Sowerby, D-Clinton Township, said state legislators need to do a better job of taking care of the environment, providing more income for families and improving roads so vehicle-related costs don’t come out of their pockets.

“I hear about the need to fix our roads all the time, and yet the Republicans only want to give tax breaks to the rich and to businesses,” he said.

Gov. Rick Snyder visited an MDOT maintenance garage in Auburn Hills Feb. 9 to outline road and infrastructure investments in his recommended 2019 budget, according to a press release. 

“Michigan’s crumbling infrastructure was neglected for too long, which is why I signed a $1.2 billion road funding package in 2015,” Snyder said in the press release. “This year’s budget recommendation supports that funding and further invests in the repair of Michigan’s roads, accelerating to nearly $1 billion in new transportation revenues in 2019.”

The press release outlines several investments in roads and infrastructure recommended in the 2019 budget:

• A total of $150 million to support the required deposit to the road funding package.

• An accelerated commitment to the road funding package of $175 million from the state’s general fund for a total of $325 million — matching the investment required for 2020 a full year ahead of schedule.

• Combined with over $600 million in new revenue generated by the 2015 package, the required deposit of $150 million and the accelerated commitment of $175 million, increased resources approach nearly $1 billion for maintaining and improving Michigan’s transportation infrastructure in 2019 alone.

“This funding will be put to use right away on our state highways and local roads,” State Transportation Director Kirk Steudle said in the press release. “It allows state and local road agencies to fix more roads and bridges sooner.”